“As computers take over more and more of the work that human beings shouldn’t be doing in the first place … there’s going to be nothing left for human beings to do but the more creative types of endeavor.”
~ Isaac Asimov
Take a look at what you do for a living.
Does your work stimulate your mind? Does it require you to be creative? Does it motivate you? Does it contribute to society? Does it give you a sense of fulfillment? Does it challenge and inspire you every day? Does it provide value? Do you love it?
If you answered ‘no’ to all or most of these questions, then you may be doing the work of a robot.
I’ve had plenty of jobs in the past that were so menial that they sapped my creativity and dulled my mind. I’ll describe one of the worst.
I once had a summer job in a plastics factory which made needle guards that are attached to IV drips. The machine that made the guards made eight at a time, but it had a fault that was affecting one out of every eight guards. Thousands of these had been produced before the fault was noticed, so now they had hundreds of huge bags filled with hundreds of needle guards, where one in eight of them was faulty, but they were all mixed together.
My job (along with several other poor souls) was to sift through the bags one needle guard at a time, and check the number that was embossed on each one (tiny enough so we needed magnifying glasses to read it). Number 7 was the faulty chamber on the machine, so any guards with a number 7 on them had to be discarded, and the ones without a 7 were placed into another bag and taken off to be packaged up for use. This was done in 12 hour shifts, with a 20-minute break every 4 hours.
Needles to say (sorry, couldn’t resist!) this job was not especially fulfilling. You could argue that I was providing value by making sure that no faulty needle guards were supplied to hospitals, but really all I was doing was saving the factory money.
A lot of people try to justify doing jobs that could be automated, by convincing themselves that they are providing value, when really they are just making more money for large corporations. This may be a good excuse for continuing to get your monthly paycheck, but it’s at the expense of your creativity, which is slowly rotting away every hour that you spend mindlessly inputting data or stuffing letters into envelopes (both of which I have also done in the past!)
The famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov gave an interview in 1988, in which he predicted a revolution in learning whereby instead of the mass education we have now, everyone would be able to study whatever they were interested in, from their own homes, at their own pace, via computer outlets. His prediction was an uncannily accurate description of the Internet and e-learning, which provides almost anyone with the resources they need to study anything they want.
Here is a clip of the interview with Bill Moyers:
Look at these two excerpts from the interview:
“As computers take over more and more of the work that human beings shouldn’t be doing in the first place – because it doesn’t utilize their brain, it stultifies and bores them to death – there’s going to be nothing left for human beings to do but the more creative types of endeavor.”
“You can’t take a human being and put him to work at a job that under-uses the brain and keep him working at it for decades and decades and then say, ‘Well, that job isn’t there, go do something more creative.’ You have beaten the creativity out of him. But if from the start, children are educated into appreciating their own creativity, then probably we can, almost all of us, be creative.”
Asimov emphasises the importance of teaching children to appreciate their creativity, so that they won’t end up doing the jobs of robots in the first place, but I think it’s never too late to reclaim your creativity, so that you do have the option of doing more creative work.
If there’s some creative endeavour that you’ve always wanted to try but never got round to it, get online today and start looking into how you can learn more about it. There’s probably a wealth of information available online for free, and if you want more, you can always enrol on an online course (I have recently started studying classical drawing and painting online, after years of putting it off because there were no classes in my area.)
I also took a great course through Schoolism online art classes a few years ago. Studying The Art of Caricature with Jason Seiler was the first real art instruction I had had since high school, and my art improved in leaps and bounds. It’s also super convenient to be able to study from home whenever you want.
Alternatively, you can continue to do your robot work until one day a robot actually replaces you and you wake up one day to find the creativity you once had has withered and died.
As Charlie Chaplin says in his rousing speech from The Great Dictator – “You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men!” (Ok, the rest of the speech is not entirely relevant, but I’m including it anyway, as it’s undeniably inspiring!)
Over to you. Do you feel like you’re doing the work of a robot? Is there something creative that you’d rather be doing? Tell me about it in the comments below.